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Spiders Can Use Electricity To Fly Hundreds Of Miles

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Photo Credit: www.mentalfloss.com

Sometimes, on a rainy day, when a predator is at bay, or if they want to migrate away, spiders whip out their silk, and balloon away. “Ballooning” has been a mystery for over a century already and now scientists are finally beginning to understand it.

Charles Darwin started being curious about how these wingless spiders can fly so far when he found thousands of them on the deck of the HMS Beagle ship on October 31, 1832. The ship was 60 miles offshore, which means the spiders must have floated over from the Argentinian mainland. These tiny red spiders, each a millimetre wide, were spotted all over the ship. “All the ropes were coated and fringed with gossamer web,” wrote Darwin.

What Is Ballooning?

Even though spiders have no wings they can still take to the air and fly away. Spiders have even been found two and a half miles up in the air and 1,000 miles out to sea. How do they do this? By ballooning. Ballooning is the behavior in which a spider climbs to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away.

It was believed that ballooning worked because the silk catches wind, dragging the spider with it. Although since spiders only balloon during light winds, that doesn’t make much sense. Some spiders are quite large, therefore it seems unlikely that such a light breeze could be strong enough to carry them aloft, or to generate the high accelerations of arachnid takeoff. Darwin found the speed of the spiders’ travel to be “quite unaccountable” and its cause to be “inexplicable.”

How Does Ballooning Work?

A duo from the University of Bristol, Erica Morley and Daniel Robert, have figured out the mystery of how ballooning really works. They discovered that spiders can actually sense the Earth’s electric field, and use it to launch themselves into the air. What’s impressive, is that the electric fields can even provide them with a lift without the slightest breeze.

Where Does The Electricity Come From?

The Earth’s atmosphere is basically a giant electrical circuit due to the 40,000 thunderstorms that crackle around the world every single day. These thunderstorms act like a giant battery for the atmosphere, charging up and maintaining the electric fields. Even on sunny, cloudless days, the air still carries around 100 volts for every meter above the ground. On stormy, foggy days, that number rises to tens of thousands of volts per meter. The highest reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere (ionosphere) have a positive charge while the planet’s surface has a negative one.

Photo Credit: www.superiorwallpapers.com

The ballooning spiders operate within this planetary electric field. The moment their silk leaves their bodies, it picks up a negative charge. The similar negative charges are repelled on the surfaces on which the spiders sit, generating enough force to lift them into the air. Spiders can increase those forces by crawling onto leaves, twigs or even grass. How do they increase those forces by just crawling on plants? Plants have the same negative charge as the ground, but they protrude into the positively charged air causing substantial electric fields between the air around them and the tips of their leaves and branches.

Testing The Spiders

The idea of ballooning behavior caused by electrostatic repulsion was first proposed in the 1800s but was dismissed without being tested. Then in 2013 the idea was brought back to life by a physicist, Peter Gorham, who showed that it was mathematically plausible. Now most recently, Morley and Robert were interested to see if the spiders actually responded to the electric fields and their fluctuations, so they tested it with actual spiders.

In order to show that the spiders can detect electric fields they put them on vertical strips of cardboard in the center of a plastic box, then generated electric fields between the floor and ceiling. They generated similar strengths of electricity to what the spiders would naturally experience outdoors. The fields caused tiny sensory hairs on the spiders’ feet to ruffle up. These sensory hairs are called trichobothria, which the researchers believe is what the spiders use to detect electricity. “It’s like when you rub a balloon and hold it up to your hairs,” Morley said.

Once the spiders’ trichobothria were ruffled they performed a set of movements called tiptoeing. Tiptoeing is when the spider stands on the end of their legs and stick their abdomens in the air, which is a behavior only ever seen when ballooning. Despite being in closed boxes with no airflow, many of the spiders managed to take off. But once Morley turned off the electric fields within the boxes, the spiders dropped.

Conclusion

The same hairs that allow spiders to sense electric fields also help them to detect wind speed or direction, so it’s possible that air currents might also play a role in ballooning. Nonetheless, Morley and Robert’s study reveals that electrostatic forces are, on their own, enough to propel spiders into the air.

The researchers published this study in Current Biology.

This article (Spiders Can Use Electricity To Fly Hundreds Of Miles) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Largest Study Of Its Kind Finds Cannabis Helps Prevent Alcohol-Related Liver Damage

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Photo Credit: Power of Possibility

John VibesGuest Writer

In a study published earlier this year by researchers at the National Institute of Scientific Research at the University of Quebec, cannabis can actually help counteract the harmful effects of alcohol to some degree.

The study found that cannabis use significantly lowered the odds of liver diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, steatosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.  Researchers formed these conclusions based on the medical records of roughly 320,000 patients who had a history of alcoholism.

According to the study:

“Abusive alcohol use has well‐established health risks including causing liver disease (ALD) characterized by alcoholic steatosis (AS), steatohepatitis (AH), fibrosis, cirrhosis (AC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Strikingly, a significant number of individuals who abuse alcohol also use Cannabis, which has seen increased legalization globally. While cannabis has demonstrated anti‐inflammatory properties, its combined use with alcohol and the development of liver disease remain unclear.”

Researchers have not determined why alcoholics who used cannabis had less of a chance of developing liver disease, but many suspect that it has something to do with the proven anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis.

These findings support the results of another study last year which concluded that cannabis helps with non-alcoholic liver disease as well.

According to last year’s study:

“It can be hypothesized that marijuana use may have potential beneficial effects on metabolic abnormalities such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Whether marijuana use plays a role in NAFLD pathogenesis via modification of shared risk factors, or by an independent pathway remains uncertain. In this population-based study, we assessed the association between marijuana use and NAFLD in the US.”

Despite the proven health benefits of cannabis and the fact that it becoming legal in new states every year, lawmakers and mainstream media pundits refuse to give up on the reefer madness hysteria that they built their careers on.

Just after these studies were published, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control banned the sale of cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages, totally ignoring the science that this actually makes the alcohol less harmful.

This attitude can be seen in the hysteria that was created when Elon Musk took a hit of cannabis on the Joe Rogan Podcast, after spending two hours drinking liquor. Of course, even though the herb is legal in the state where they recorded, and it is far less harmful than alcohol, people decided to focus on the cannabis use because of the stigma against it.

A 2015 study, published in the journal, ‘Scientific Reports,’ suggests that smoking cannabis is roughly 114 times safer than drinking  alcohol. Ironically, out of all the drugs that were researched in the  study, alcohol was actually the most dangerous, and it was the only  legal drug on the list.

Just behind alcohol, heroin and cocaine were listed as the next most dangerous, followed by tobacco, ecstasy, and meth. The criteria that  these drugs were arranged by, was according to the likelihood of a  person dying from consuming a lethal dose.

 “The results confirm that the risk of cannabis may have been  overestimated in the past. At least for the endpoint of mortality, the (margin of exposure) for THC/cannabis in both individual and  population-based assessments would be above safety thresholds (e.g. 100  for data based on animal experiments). In contrast, the risk of alcohol  may have been commonly underestimated,” the report states. “Currently, the MOE results point to risk management  prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs.  The high MOE values of cannabis, which are in a low-risk range, suggest a  strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition  approach,” the report continues.

While this is not the first study to rank marijuana very low in terms of danger, it comes at a time when the debate surrounding marijuana legalization is more heated than ever before, with more and more people agreeing that it is time to end prohibition.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all.

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Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel

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Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel

Once tooth enamel breaks or wears away it’s over – it doesn’t grow back. That’s why dentists have to plug in the gaps with artificial fillings. But now, a team of scientists from China’s Zhejiang University and Jiujiang Research Institute says it has finally figured out how to regrow tooth enamel, a development that could totally upend dental care. The team developed a gel that has been found to help mouse teeth regrow enamel within 48 hours. The research has been published in the journal Science Advances.

Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel
Photo Credit: Zhejiang University

What exactly is enamel and why can’t it regrow? It is a mineralized substance with a highly complicated structure that covers the surface of teeth. The structure is made up of enamel rods interwoven with inter-rods in a fish scale pattern which makes it the hardest tissue in the human body. It is initially formed biologically but once mature it becomes acellular, meaning it becomes devoid of the ability to self-repair. This is why cavities (tooth decay) are one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in humans.

Electron microscope images of human tooth enamel that has been repaired for six, 12 and 48 hours. The blue area is the native enamel; the green is the repaired enamel. Photograph: Zhejiang University/Science Advances

Enamel is so complex that its structure has yet to be duplicated correctly artificially. Resins, ceramics and amalgam fillings can mend the problem but they are not a forever fix. The fact that they are made of foreign materials means they can’t achieve a permanent repair. The new gel made by the Chinese scientists is different because it is made of the same material as enamel. It is made by mixing calcium and phosphate ions – both minerals which are found in enamel – with the chemical called triethylamine in an alcohol solution.

Photo Credit: Zhejiang University

For now, the gel is only a promising sign that regenerative dentistry could someday heal tooth decay. There’s a long way to go before the gel can be used in human medicine because it is still too thin. Natural-grown enamel is 400 times thicker than that grown with assistance from the new gel. Until they can solve that piece of the puzzle, fillings will continue to be the more useful option for people with cavities for the foreseeable future.

The scientists are currently continuing the testing on mice and plan to eventually test the gel on people, tracking how the new enamel holds up as they go about their day, eating, drinking, and chewing.

This article (Scientists Develop Gel That Can Regrow Tooth Enamel) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Mexican Scientist Discovers A Way To Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic

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Mexican Scientist Discovers A Way To Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic
Photo Credit: BBC

Elias Marat, TMU

As the crisis of plastic waste grows, researchers have looked for various ways to cut down on single-use plastics, with many cities and countries across the world seeking to put an end to plastic bags, straws, and other common products in favor of more sustainable, environmentally sound options.

And at the University of the Valley of Atemajac (UNIVA) which lies just outside of Guadalajara in Mexico’s Jalisco state, chemical engineering professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz has found a novel alternative to plastic—one based on nopal, or prickly pear cactus, which has long been a national symbol of Mexico and a crucial staple of the Mexican diet.

Pascoe and her students have devised a way to form a new biodegradable plastic using the juice from the edible cactus’ fruit, known as the tuna, to make the innovative new product.

Pascoe told the BBC:

“It’s a non-toxic product. All the materials we use can be ingested both by humans or animals. And they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

The cactus-based plastic is formed out of the juice of the nopal, which contains sugars, pectin, and organic acids that grant it a viscous consistency.

When the juice is blended with a mixture of glycerol, colorants, proteins, natural waxes and decanted to remove the fibre, the formula is then dried out on a hot plate to produce the plastic.

In a separate interview with EFE news agency last year, Pascoe explained how she collaborated with the University of Guadalajara Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences to measure just how quickly and in which conditions the new biodegradable plastic would break down. Pascoe noted:

“We’ve done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory; for example, we’ve put it in water and we’ve seen that it does break down [but] we still have to do a chemical test to see if it really did completely disintegrate. We’ve also done tests in moist compost-like soil and the material also breaks down.”

The invention could provide a crucial substitute for the commonly used petroleum-based plastics that are choking waterways and ocean life worldwide. Instead, this biodegradable plastic would either harmlessly dissolve or feed sea creatures rather than contributing to their demise.

For the time being, however, the production of the cactus-based plastic is limited to Pascoe’s lab, where she and her students spend time manufacturing the potentially revolutionary substitute.

Her former students have even experimented with using the formula to produce toys for their kids, according to KJZZ.

Michelle Mendoza, who has completed her industrial engineering degree but continues working with Pascoe, explained:

“My daughter loves to buy toys in the markets and then once she played with it one day, she didn’t want it anymore.”

So Mendoza made strawberry-shaped plastics that excited her daughter for a bit, but then met the same fate as the rest of her toys and were discarded after a day in “the same way,” she laughingly said, noting that at least the nopal-based toys can be dissolved in water after three weeks unlike plastic toys.

Professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz remains hopeful that one day, her biodegradable plastic can be used commercially, although she doesn’t have plans to turn a huge profit and become some sort of bio-plastic tycoon.

Instead, she hopes to simply continue her work as a researcher and reduce the impact of solid waste in Mexico and around the world.

“Maybe I’m too much of an idealist.”

This article (Mexican Scientist Discovers a Way to Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic) was originally published at The Mind Unleashed and is re-posted here with permission.

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Ecologist Says Trees Talk To Each Other In A Language We Can Learn

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Photo Credit: www.upliftconnect.com

Azriel ReShel, Uplift

A walk amongst the trees is rejuvenating, nourishing and healing, yet a forest is so much more than an amazing collection of trees. There is a lot going on in the forests that we can’t see. Ecologist Suzanne Simard says trees have a sophisticated and interconnected social network existing underground.

“A world of infinite, biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate, and allow the forest to behave as if it’s a single organism.”

Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery: trees talk, communicating often and over vast distances. Trees are much more like us humans that you may think. They are extremely social and depend on each other for their survival. Communication is vital, and a massive web of hair-like mushroom roots transmit secret messages between trees, triggering them to share nutrients and water with those in need.

Suzanne grew up in the magnificent forests of British Columbia. She shares how she’d lie down on the forest floor and stare up at the crowns of the giant trees. An accident with her dog who fell into their forest outhouse and had to be dug out, led her to discover the incredible underground root and mycelial network she would later research. When she returned to the study of trees later in life, she learnt how scientists had just discovered in the laboratory, that one pine seedling root could transmit carbon to another pine seedling root.

Trees Support Each Other

This insight spurred her on to study real forests to see what happens there. Her idea that trees could share information underground was controversial and many of her colleagues thought she was crazy. Difficulties in securing research funding led her to conduct her own experiments and so she planted 240 birch, fir and cedar trees in a Canadian forest. She hypothesized that the birch and firs would be connected in their own underground web, but not the cedar. Undeterred by bears, she covered the seedlings with plastic bags, filling them with various types of carbon gas. She injected a radioactive gas into the birch, and then a stable carbon dioxide gas into the fir.

When she ran a Geiger counter over the trees, she discovered silence from the cedar, and a loud sound of communication between the fir and birch trees who were sharing carbon with each other. She discovered birch sent carbon to fir, especially when it was shaded. Later the opposite happened, when the birch was leafless in the winter, the fir sent over more carbon. Science had always believed that trees competed with each other for carbon, sunlight, water and nutrients.

Simard’s groundbreaking work showed that trees are interdependent and cooperative, in fact they are immersed in deep relationships with each other.

Trees converse by chemical and hormonal signals via a network of mycelium.

The trees were conversing by chemical and hormonal signals via the mycelium. These messages determined which trees needed certain nutrients. They communicated via carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, water, hormones and chemicals and then shared these elements, balancing the entire forest.

“The web is so dense there can be hundreds of kilometres of mycelium under a single foot step.”

The Wisdom Of Mother Trees

And the mycelium connects different individuals in the same forest, from the same species and other species. This network works in a similar way to the internet. She discovered that mother trees nurture the younger trees and that a single mother tree can be connected to hundreds of other trees. Trees talk, and through these conversations they increase the resilience of the whole community. It’s a magical community of trees all supporting each other.

Suzanne’s research has important environmental implications for the destruction of our forests. She says that when mother trees are injured or dying, they send their wisdom onto the next generation, but they can’t do this is if they are all wiped out at the same time. She hopes that her research will change the way we practice forestry.

You can take out one or two hub trees, but there comes a tipping point, if you take out one too many, the whole system collapses. We are steadily weakening our forests, by clear cutting and planting only one or two species. This is having major environmental impacts. But there is hope. She says forests have an enormous capacity to self-heal.

Four Solutions For Sustainable Forestry

She suggests four simple solutions for more holistic and sustainable forestry that could end the damage caused by clear cutting:

  1. We need to get out into our local forests more.
  2. We must save old growth forests as they are the repositories of genes, mother trees and mycelium networks.
  3. Where we do cut, we must save the ‘legacy’ mother trees and networks so they can pass their wisdom onto the next generation of trees.
  4. We must regenerate our forests with a diversity of species.

As more and more information comes to light about the complex relationships existing between trees, we are better equipped to save our forests and help them thrive. Scientists like Simard are helping us change our perspective so that we work in harmony with nature; something that could dramatically alter the trajectory of environmental disaster and bring harmonious outcomes for both humans and trees.

Trees can talk to each other – Suzanne Simard

About the Author

Azriel ReShel is a writer, editor, yoga Teacher & healing facilitator.

This article (Ecologist Says Trees Talk to Each Other in a Language We Can Learn) was originally posted at Uplift Connect, and is reposted here with permission.

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